Thousands of Suffolk children are not ’school ready’, figures reveal
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Thousands of children in Suffolk could be starting the first year of school without basic skills such as being able to hold a pencil or going to the toilet by themselves, new figures have revealed.
A child is ‘school ready’, according to Public Health England, depending on whether they have reached a good level of development at the end of reception and achieve their ‘Early Learning Goals’.
These goals can be anything from motor skills, such as being able to comfortably hold a pencil, to maths and English skills.
According to figures published by the Department for Education, as part of its annual census, just 69% of children in Suffolk were at a good level in the 2016-17 academic year, the latest year for which data is available.
This means around 2,570 children - more than one in four - may not have been ready for school by the time they entered Year 1.
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This is equal to the national average.
Children from poorer backgrounds fared worse however, with only 54% of pupils eligible for school meals deemed as ‘school ready’ compared to 71% of pupils not eligible for free school meals.
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Subject areas assessed as part of the census include communication and language, physical development, and personal, social and emotional development.
However, literacy and maths are also assessed, in which children tend to score lower than in other areas.
A child has to be rated ‘good’ in all areas to be deemed as ‘school ready’.
However, Michael Freeston, director of quality improvement at the Pre-school Learning Alliance (PLA), said it was “deeply unhelpful” to focus too much on literacy and maths at so young an age.
He added: “The focus should be on schools being ready for children and being able to meet their needs, not the other way around.”
Nadhim Zahawi, Minister for Children and Families, said: “The Education Secretary has pledged to halve the number of children starting year 1 without early speaking and learning skills by 2028, and will convene a summit in the autumn of businesses, broadcasters and a broad range of other organisations as part of a coalition to explore innovative ways to boost early language development and reading in the home.”